Urbana to attack Morris defense with no-huddle
To say that coach Nathan Watson has made a mark on Urbana High School's football team is an understatement. This year the Tigers tied a school record for wins in a season with nine and won their first playoff game last week with a 36-22 win over East Peoria.
A large part of the team's success this season is quarterback Cameron Mammen and his ability to run the no-huddle offense that Watson established.
Mammen has had a tremendous career at Urbana, compiling over 4,200 yards passing — including 1,637 this year. Additionally, he has also run for 991 yards in 2012.
"It's the best thing we've ever done," Watson told the Champaign News-Gazette recently about the no-huddle offense. "It gets the other teams tired. We say that we'll outwork and outhustle everybody. Defenses get tired if they are not used to that pace."
Morris coach Alan Thorson says that he and his coaching staff have been working on just that.
"They run spread, pistol. It's pretty much all no-huddle. They are going to signal the plays in from the sideline and then they go," he said. "This week at practice, we've been running two groups at the defense to simulate the no-huddle look. I think we've done a good job."
While Mammen has talented receivers in Tanner Russell, Dustin Lard and Devon Williams, it's Mannen that makes it all go.
"It's going to be different for us, but we've been conditioning for it, practicing against the no-huddle and I think we're going to be ready for them," Morris senior captain and lineman Craig Claire said.
That means accounting for Mammen at all times.
"He's is a good athlete. He can throw the ball and he maybe runs the ball better than he passes it," Thorson said. "He'll drop back to throw and if the receiver is not there, he's going to be gone. I know he's rushed for a lot of yards, too. Our defense has to stop him."
However, focus on Mammen too much and Tigers' running backs James Pattin and Alexander Lynch will make someone pay. Those three are among five different backs Urbana has utilized this year who have run for 100 yards or more in a single game.
"Their running backs are good and they have some nice receivers but the whole offense revolves around the quarterback," Thorson said. "He's going to have to be accounted for, that's for sure. It's going to be a challenge for our defense."
When Morris is on offense, the Redskins will be facing a familiar defensive scheme.
"Defensively they run a 5-2, 5-3 and variations of that," Thorson said. "Obviously, we're familiar with that being similar to us. Not a ton of blitzing but they do have a big linebacker in the middle that's a nice player, too."
Morris ran almost exclusively out of the T-formation last week in its 44-0 win over Rich East and it remains to be seen how long that formula will be utilized by the team.
"We're going to try and stay with what we have, but if we have to go with something else, we will," Claire said. "Right now, though, we're going to stay with the basic offense we've been running."
The kickoff for the game is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday and the game will be played right here on the Redskins' field.
"We love it at home. I like the atmosphere we have here," Claire said. "It's always a pain going on the long bus rides, so being here and waiting for the other team is always a good feeling."
Last week, Rich East didn't have much of a rooting section. However, no matter what kind of a crowd there will be on Saturday, Thorson says that playing here in town in the playoffs is always to the Redskins' benefit.
"I don't know how they are going to travel, but being at home is huge. Every time the question comes up for anyone coming here in the playoffs, they will tell you it's a tough place to play at," he said. "We're excited about it and the kids love playing here. We'll hopefully use that to our advantage."